Ashes 4th Test, Day 3: England slump to three-day defeat

England slumped to a humiliating innings defeat inside three days in the fourth Ashes Test today as Shane Warne narrowly missed out on another milestone in his final Melbourne Test.

Having become the first cricketer in history to claim 700 Test wickets in the first innings, 37-year-old Warne needed the final wicket of the match to claim his 1,000th international victim.

But Warne had to settle for 999, with Brett Lee bowling last man Matthew Hoggard to dismiss England for 161 and wrap up a convincing innings and 99 run triumph shortly before the close in the third evening.

It leaves Warne needing one wicket more to become only the second player in history behind Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan to reach the landmark.

England had earlier begun their innings with a 260-run first-innings deficit after finally dismissing Australia for 419 inside the first hour of the day.

Their reply had begun comfortably, with Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook sharing a 41-run opening stand before suffering a collapse similar to those that have been features of their previous defeats in the series at Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

They never recovered from the loss of three wickets in six overs shortly after lunch with Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen all falling in the space of 37 balls.

Cook was the first to fall after being tempted into driving without moving his feet by seamer Stuart Clark and the inside edge crashed into his stumps.

New batsman Bell lasted only 20 minutes before veteran seamer Glenn McGrath hit him on the pads in front of his stumps and persuaded umpire Rudi Koertzen, who had enraged both teams by his failure to give a number of lbw appeals during the match, to finally raise his finger.

Pietersen, promoted to the number four position he had occupied before the start of this series, lasted just eight balls with the new experiment when Clark knocked back his off-stump with an inswinger.

Paul Collingwood, dropped back to number five to accommodate Pietersen's promotion, battled hard for nearly an hour but shortly before tea became Brett Lee's first victim when he drove straight to short extra cover off the front foot.

Strauss had battled for nearly three hours for his 31 runs, but played a weary shot to the fifth ball after lunch and edged Lee behind and, despite a breezy 25, captain Andrew Flintoff followed when he was given lbw playing across the line to Clark.

Warne edged Australia a step nearer their convincing victory in the next over by winning an lbw decision against Sajid Mahmood, who missed an attempted cut shot, and quickly took his international tally of victims to 999 when he won another lbw decision against Steve Harmison.

But he was denied the fairytale finish from the MCG and Lee instead finished the match with an inswinging yorker which crashed into Hoggard's leg-stump.

Australia had resumed 213 runs ahead on 371 for two overnight hoping to add to their already healthy advantage but lost all-rounder Andrew Symonds, unbeaten on 154 overnight, in the fourth over of the day after he had added only two runs to his total.

Symonds chased a wide delivery and got a thin edge behind and prompted a counter-attack from Warne, who hammered an unbeaten 40 off 54 balls.

He was was unable to reach his half-century after Lancashire seamer Mahmood cleaned up the tail to finish with four for 100 with wicketkeeper Read claiming six catches on his Ashes debut.